“David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens
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The theme of course paper is simile versus comparative idiom: types and functions in the text. The topicality of course work is of great importance because simile and comparative idiom are important and interesting units of the linguistic system, they make the wide layer of actively in-use vocabulary which is significant part of English phraseology. The object of course paper is: similes and comparative idioms selected from the Dickens’s novel “David Copperfield”. The aim of course paper is to investigate different types and functions of similes and comparative idioms in the novel “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens. The tasks of course paper are:
• to give general characteristic of simile and comparative idiom; • to define different types of similes and comparative idioms; • to define functions of similes and comparative idioms; • to show the role of similes and comparative idioms in the novel “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens. • to vindicate simile as a figure in its own right, and as an object of study distinct both from metaphorical expression and literal comparison. Simile: types and functions in the text Simile is, formally, a species of comparison, its figurativity has consequences for its use and interpretation that set it apart from other forms of comparison. At the sametime, its status as a genuine form of comparison also sets simile apart from metaphor. Unlike metaphor, simile is essentially a figure of speech—in fact, an explicit form of comparison; but unlike literal comparison, simile is essentially figurative, making unexpected connections between literally unlike concepts.
These observations are simple, but they have important consequences for the forms similes take, the meanings they convey, and ultimately for the rhetorical functions they serve. All scholars give different definitions of simile. I. R. Galperin states that simile characterizes one object by bringing it into contact with another object belonging to an entirely different class of things. V.A. Kukcharenko considers simile as an imaginative comparison of two unlike objects belonging to two different classes. The one which is compared is called the tenor, the one with which it is compared, is called the vehicle. The tenor and the vehicle form the two semantic poles of the simile, which are connected by one of the following link words “like”, “as”, “as though”, “as like”, “such as”, “as…as”, etc. In a simile we deal with the likening of objects belonging to two different classes. Simile uses for purposes of expressive evaluation, emotive explanation, highly individual description. The tenor and the vehicle may be expressed in a brief “nucleus” manner or may be extended.
This last case of sustained expression of likeness is known as epic, or Homeric simile. In a simile two objects are compared on the grounds of similarity of some quality. This feature which is called foundation of a simile may be explicitly mentioned. When the foundation is not explicitly named, the simile is considered to be richer in possible associations, because the fact that a phenomenon can be qualified in multiple and varying ways allows attaching at least some of many qualities to the object of comparison. Sometimes the foundation of the simile is not quite clear from the context, and the author supplies it with a key, where he explains which similarities led him to liken two different entities, and which in fact is an extended and detailed foundation. Similes compare two things by association which are not like each other but which, when used, can make the meaning via the association more descriptive. They can also be used where the association is stated either implicitly or explicitly.
Thereby, they can be used in a way that leaves the reader in no doubt of what the author is trying to convey or, in some instances, the author may prefer to use a simile which can be open to interpretation by the reader which, therefore means that different readers may have different connotations of what the author is trying to say and that might be the intention of the author. Here is an example of an explicit simile where the reader is left in no doubt of the author’s intent: “I knew it would end in trouble when I saw all the beers and chasers on the bar. He was drinking like a fish.” – Here, the reader is left in no doubt that the person the author is talking about has been drinking a lot. Here is an example of an implicit simile where the author’s description might seem vaguer or where it might be interpreted by different people in different ways: “The skill of the pilot as he manoeuvred the plane through the mountainous region before swooping down towards the runway was as precise and as controlled as an eagle following its prey.” – Here, although most of us would take that to mean that the pilot was very skilled in controlling the plane and reaching his intended target, some people may have different perspectives on how they picture the plane as it comes in to land. Certain similes have also become used stereotypically over the years to become part of everyday speech.
For example, an often used simile is “as stubborn as an ox” and whilst there is no problem with using that phrase when writing, it’s hardly original but it might equally be the best choice of words to convey what you want to say. Similes are also used in an ironic manner to make comparisons which are the total opposite to what the author means to say. An often cited example is “he was as much use as a chocolate teapot” which basically means he was no use at all. Ironic similes create a humorous effect by setting up an expectation that is then incongruously dashed. Incongruity is a core concept in the understanding of humor as a cognitive mechanism. Some similes work to undermine the trope of “playing against expectations”. Such similes honor and frustrate the well-trod conventions of the form. Similes are sometimes made without using the words “like” or “as.” This often occurs when making comparisons of differing values.
“I’m happier than a tornado in a trailer park”. (Tow Mater “Cars”.) Similes in which the link between the tenor and the vehicle is expressed by notional verbs such as “to resemble”, “to seem”, “to recollect”, “to remember”, “to look like”, “to appear”, etc. are called disguised, because the realization of the comparison is somewhat suspended, as the likeness between the objects seems less evident. As a figure of comparison, similes serve the basic rhetorical functions of description and evaluation. This is largely a consequence of their form, and the fact that a simile necessarily features a comparison construction predicated of an explicit target. Basically, a simile is just a way of describing a target by asserting its similarity to some unexpected entity. Writers use similes to explain things, to express emotion, and to make their writing more vivid and entertaining. Discovering fresh similes to use in writing also means discovering new ways to look at subjects. Similes can not only make writing more interesting but also help to think more carefully about subjects.
Put another way, similes are not just pretty ornaments; they are ways of thinking and can make descriptions more vivid and ideas clearer. It is well known that Dickens’s novels include various linguistic techniques and tropes that make his descriptions of characters, their backgrounds or surroundings more graphic and real. Above all, his rhetorical depictions of human characters are worthy of remark because the author attempts to observe and describe their appearances or personalities in order to evoke an association between a human and a non-human being or substance in the reader’s mind. And, further, Dickens’s language is rich in humour and vividness, as he makes particular use of figurative devices such as similes and metaphors, drawing close analogies between the natural attributes or physical appearances of two things. In David Copperfield, we can see hundreds of similes by which the author attempts to draw an analogy between two things compared.
The simile device in this novel plays a significant role for Dickens in depicting particular features of various characters or objects elaborately or fancifully. “Here I sit at the desk again, on a drowsy summer afternoon. A buzz and hum go up around me, as if the boys were so many bluebottles. A cloggy sensation of the lukewarm fat of meat is upon me (we dined an hour or two ago), and my head is as heavy as so much lead” [6,86]. Instance describes David at Salem House with other pupils on a drowsy summer afternoon. The expression ‘my head is as heavy as so much lead’ is most effective in emphasising the degree of the child’s drowsiness. The phrase ‘heavy as lead’ is one of the idiomatic expressions of simile. We can state that the phrase ‘heavy as lead’ is useful in emphasising the degree of someone’s emotional or physical condition. “Poor Traddles! In a tight sky-blue suit that made his arms and legs like German sausages, or roly-poly puddings, he was the merriest and most miserable of all the boys”[6, 87].
The expression “his arms and legs like German sausages, or roly-poly puddings” is felicitous simile that describes the Traddles’ appearance. The expression ‘German sausages’ gives the picture of sluggish arms and legs, roly-poly puddings – dumpy and plumb extremities. Dickens the most frequent used the types of ‘like’ similes. This is also very useful in describing a certain quality or condition of people concretely. “It was not long before I observed that it was the most susceptible part of her face, and that, when she turned pale, that mark altered first, and became a dull, lead-coloured streak, lengthening out to its full extent, like a mark in invisible ink brought to the fire” [6, 288]. Instance represents Miss Durtle’s appearance with a scar on her lip, which attracted David’s attention. What is most striking in this context is that Dickens attempts to draw a close analogy between the mark on Miss Durtle’s lip and that of invisible ink brought to the fire.
Dickens also used similes to portray particular behaviours of certain characters humorously, as in instances: “I suppose,” said my aunt, eyeing me as narrowly as she had eyed the needle in threading it, “you think Mr. Dick a short name, eh?” [6,196]. The behaviour of Betsy Trootwood, casting a keen eye on David, is comically depicted as the narrator discovers a striking similarity to her sharp eyes while sitting at her needlework. This form is one of the most effective means of description for Dickens to represent the figure of each character accurately. “She had a little basket-trifle hanging at her side, with keys in it; and she looked as staid and as discreet a housekeeper as the old house could have” [6, 217]. Dickens often used similes with the term ‘as’. Example suggests Agnes Wickfield’s calm and quiet appearance like a discreet housekeeper with a little basket in her hand. From the context, the narrator David discovers an affinity between her figure and the old house, regarding their tranquillity from David’s point of view as a child.
“He certainly did look uncommonly like the carved face on the beam outside my window, as he sat, in his humility, eyeing me sideways, with his mouth widened, and the creases in his cheeks” [6, 229]. The simile form of ‘look + like’ also plays a significant role in exhibiting the particular figures of people or inanimate objects, as in previous example where David watches the villainous Uriah Heep and compares his face with the carved face on the beam. Moreover, it is noteworthy that the hero is also in the habit of dehumanising Uriah Heep as if he were a fish, as in the next example: “— I should say Mister, but I know you’ll excuse the abit I’ve got into — you’re so insinuating, that you draw me like a corkscrew! Well, I don’t mind telling you,” putting his fish-like hand on mine, “I am not a lady’s man in general, sir, and I never was, with_ _Mrs. Strong” [6, 591]. In the next three examples we can see that Uriah Heep, a villainous character, is depicted as if he were a ‘fish’ or other slimy creature like a ‘frog’ or ‘snail’.
He is so spiteful or cunning a character in David’s eye that the author constantly attempts to degrade him to an animal-like state. Uriah’s way of following every line in a book with his forefinger like a ‘snail’ is most effective in giving the reader an image of something cold, wet or slimy. “I found Uriah reading a great fat book, with such demonstrative attention, that his lank forefinger followed up every line as he read, and made clammy tracks along the page (or so I fully believed) like a snail” [6, 227]. “After shaking hands with me—his hand felt like a fish, in the dark—he opened the door into the street a very little, and crept out, and shut it, leaving me to grope my way back into the house: which cost me some trouble and a fall over his stool” [6, 230]. “I led him up the dark stairs, to prevent his knocking his head against anything, and really his damp cold hand felt so like a frog in mine, that I was tempted to drop it and run away” [6,367]. As for Dickens’s similes in David Copperfield, the narrator attempts to identify various characters with nonhuman living creatures or lifeless objects with his keen observation and power of imagination. Dicken’s similes made all his novels more vivid and entertaining. 2. Comparative idiom: types and functions in the text
An idiom is a special kind of phrase. It can be defined as a group of words that – when used together – have a meaning different from the individual meaning of each word. Idioms are, in a very broad sense, metaphorical rather than literal: they are effectively metaphors that have become ‘fixed’ or ‘fossilized’. In some cases, it is fairly easy to see how the idiomatic meaning relates to the literal meaning, as the image in the metaphor supports it or one knows how the metaphorical meaning has developed. In other cases, the literal meaning may make no sense at all. In a few further cases, the metaphors in the idioms are peculiar, and their true origins are unknown or uncertain, so it is very difficult to see how or why the idioms have come to have their current meanings. Idioms are also more or less invariable or fixed in form or order in a way that makes them different from literal expressions. Most idiomatic phrases fail in one way or another to permit the usual grammatical operations which literal phrases will permit. Idioms take many different forms or structures. An idiom can have a regular structure, an irregular or even a grammatically incorrect structure.
Comparative idioms are idioms which compare a quality, condition, action, etc., with a noun (_as red as a beetroot_ – red in the face from feeling awkward or ashamed ). They use ‘as … as …’ as a key structure. These phrases emphasise the meaning of the first word and can usually be translated by simply putting ‘very’ in front of it. Certain idioms are function as similes. Pragmatics is the study of the way in which people use language to achieve different goals – for example in making suggestions or offers, in conveying thanks or refusals, in expressing emotions and opinions, or in making commitments. Idioms have important pragmatic functions in texts and interactions. They are used, for example, to give emphasis or to organise discourse. Because they have fairly general meanings, they are less often used purely to convey factual information and more often convey attitude. They typically convey evaluations: they are used as ways of expressing approval and admiration, or disapproval and criticism. Idioms are one of the most difficult parts of the vocabulary of any language because they have unpredictable meanings or collocations and grammar.
As these special connotations and pragmatic meanings are not obvious to people who are unfamiliar with that idiom, the real meaning of the statement is usually missed. Similarly, someone may use an idiom without realising it will be interpreted as critical or disapproving, and therefore unintentionally cause the wrong reaction in the person they are talking to. Nevertheless, idioms are, at the same time, one of the most interesting parts of the English vocabulary. They are interesting because they are colourful and lively, and because they are linguistic curiosities. They tell us not only about mythology, history, tradition, beliefs and customs; but more important, about the way of thinking and the outlook upon life of the people who speak the language that has produced them. Therefore it is important to remember that idioms are not only colloquial expressions associated with conversation and informal language, a separate part of the language, which one can choose either to use or to omit, but form an essential part of the vocabulary of English. An idiom is a special kind of phrase. It can be defined as a group of words that – when used together – have a meaning different from the individual meaning of each word. Comparative idioms are divided into three main groups:
Idioms describing personality and behavior. Let us look at some examples and their short meanings: As thick as two short planks – very stupid, not at all clever (an informal idiom). As stubborn as a mule – very stubborn, obstinate.
As good as gold – very well behaved, often used to describe children.
As timid as a mouse – very shy and quiet. Idioms describing physical characteristics:
As strong as a horse – very strong.
As strong as an ox – very strong.
As pretty as a picture – very pretty, very attractive
As blind as a bat – very poor eyesight, unable to see.
As white as a sheet – very pale or white face, because you are unwell or very scared.
As light as a feather – not heavy, very light in weight. Idioms describing the state of things:
As right as rain – in good and normal condition. As good as new – in very good condition.
As safe as houses – very safe, very secure and certain.
As sound as a bell – in very good physical condition, e.g. an engine. Let us analyse some comparative idioms and look at them in the context. Idiom ‘as cool as cucumber’ means calm and unruffled. Cool here means imperturbable rather than having a low temperature. Cucumbers are cool to the touch. First recorded in John _Gay’s Poems, New Song on New Similies,_ 1732: “I … cool as a cucumber could see The rest of womankind.” ‘As fine as frog’s hair’ means extremely fine, i.e. delicate and slender. The allusion to the hairs on a frog clearly points us to the ‘slender, narrow’, meaning of the phrase. Just as clearly, frogs don’t have hair, and the ironic reference to it is intended to highlight the effect. This is similar to the idiom ‘as rare as rocking-horse shit’ i.e. nonexistent. The citation above plays with the meaning in that it uses ‘fine’ to mean ‘excellent – in high spirits’. There is a lesser-known southern-states variant – ‘as slippery as frog hair’. This is used to denote money, especially that which is newly acquired. ‘As fit as a fiddle’ means very fit and well.
Of course the ‘fiddle’ here is the colloquial name for violin. ‘Fit’ didn’t originally mean healthy and energetic, in the sense it is often used nowadays to describe the inhabitants of gyms. When this phrase was coined ‘fit’ was used to mean ‘suitable, seemly’, in the way we now might say ‘fit for purpose’. ‘As good as gold’ means well-behaved and obedient. In this case things are a little different. Gold isn’t well-known to be either well-behaved or obedient. Here ‘good’ means genuine – not counterfeit. ‘As good as gold’ ought really to be ‘as genuine as gold’, but the more usual meaning of ‘good’ has taken precedence over the years and left us with the usual meaning of the phrase. Charles Dickens used in his novel “David Copperfield” comparative idiom ‘as good as gold’ to make his description more impressive and interesting. “…Mrs. Gummidge was the widow of his partner in a boat, who had died very poor.
He was but a poor man himself, said Peggotty, but as good as gold and as true as steel – those were her similes” [6, 32]. ‘As straight as a die’ means completely straight. This is an odd simile when one considers that the die here is the singular of dice – hardly objects that appear straight. It makes more sense when we realize that straight means correct and true, rather than ‘as the crow flies’. The phrase originated as ‘as smooth as a die’, no doubt referring to the smoothness of the bone that dice were made from. Despite their reputation for smooth/true/straightness, dice weren’t always straight. Modern dice are now almost always made so that the opposite faces add up to seven and of a material that is of even density throughout. Some earlier ‘crooked’ dice (or as they would have been then called, dies) were weighted to favour particular numbers or may have had more than one face that showed the same number. ‘As blind as a bat’ (less frequently as a beetle, as a mole, as a brickbat) means extremely poor eyesight; figurative meaning – unable to see, or perceive, something that is obvious to other people. ‘Well, Master Copperfield!’ said Uriah, meekly turning to me.
‘The thing hasn’t took quite the turn that might have been expected, forthe old Scholar – what an excellent man! – is as blind as a brickbat; but this family’s out of the cart, I think!’ [6, 603]. ‘As mute as a fish’ or ‘as mute as a mouse” means silent. Dickens successfully used this idiom in in emphasising the degree of the hero’s quietness at Salam House: “I thought of my breakfast then, and what had sounded like ‘My Charley!’ but I was, I am glad to remember, as mute as a mouse about it” [6, 84]. Comparative idiom ‘As white as snow’ means pure white. What better to symbolise whiteness than snow? Not only the intesity of colour on a bright winter’s day, but also the purity of untrodden snow is summoned up by the simile. Shakespeare used this association to good effect in ‘as pure as the driven snow’. Charles Dickens used it in ‘as white as milk’: “The walls were whitewashed as white as milk, and the patchwork counterpane made my eyes quite ache with its brightness” [6, 29]. Dickens occasionally uses comparative idioms in David Copperfield . The expression ‘as white as milk’ is effective in emphasising the degree of the whiteness of the walls in Mr Peggotty’s house. Although comparative idioms are less frequent in the novel, but it is an effective means for Dickens to delineate the nature of a character or substance graphically. Conclusion
This course paper has investigated similes and comparative idioms and their role and functions in the text. The first chapter is devoted to the various types of similes and their functions in the text. The analysis fulfilled shows that simile is an important stylistic device that helps writers to explain things, to express emotions, and to make their writing more vivid and entertaining. The purpose in this chapter has been to vindicate simile as a figure in its own right, and as an object of study distinct both from metaphorical expression and literal comparison. The second chapter contains description of comparative idioms and their role in the text. Idioms are one of the most interesting parts of the English vocabulary. They are interesting because they are colourful and lively, and because they are linguistic curiosities. They tell us about mythology, history, tradition, beliefs and about the way of thinking and the outlook.
It is also important about idioms, if person does not know that the words have a special meaning together, they may well misinterpret what someone is saying, or be puzzled by why they are saying something that is untrue or irrelevant. This course paper has investigated the role and function of simile and comparative idioms in the novel “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens. This novel is full of different stylistic devices. Similes and comparative idioms are fundamental for Dickens to develop his vision of the inhuman world that surrounds him. His devices are at all times rich in humour and vividness, and his expressions therefore produce an effect in the mind of the reader. Similes and comparative idioms beautify the language and establish the characteristic style of individual languages. Speech or writing studded with similes and idioms are generally considered as flowery language, although an overload of it, for that matter any nicety, may not be relished much.